School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University

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School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)
Established 1946
Type Private
Dean Merit Janow
Location New York City, New York, United States
Campus Urban

The School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University (also known at SIPA) is a public policy and international affairs school and one of Columbia's graduate and professional schools.

Located on Columbia's Morningside Heights campus in the Borough of Manhattan, in New York City, the school has more than 19,000 alumni in more than 150 countries. SIPA's alumni include former heads of state, business leaders, journalists, diplomats, and elected representatives. Many graduates reach the upper echelons of central banks and treasuries, others go to energy companies, non-for-profits and social enterprises.[1] Half of SIPA’s nearly 1,400 students are international, coming from over 100 countries. SIPA has more than 70 full-time faculty and more than 200 adjunct professors, including the world's leading scholars on international relations.

The school offers two traditional two-year master's degrees (Master of Public Administration or Master of International Affairs), an Executive MPA, an Environmental Science and Policy program, an Economic Policy Management program, a Development Practice degree, and a Ph.D. program in Sustainable Development. SIPA also offers a number of dual-degree programs with other Columbia University schools and, through the Global Public Policy Network (GPPN), offers international dual degree programs with the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, the University of Tokyo and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.[2]


Columbia University's School of International Affairs was founded in 1946, in the aftermath of World War II. Emphasizing practical training, the mission of the School was to foster understanding of regions of vital interest and to prepare diplomats, officials, and other professionals to meet the complexities of the postwar world. It originated in dynamic regional institutes that drew on Columbia's renowned faculties in history, economics, political science, linguistics, and other traditional fields. The School awarded a Master of International Affairs (MIA) degree.

By 1967, the School was home to eight regional institutes, covering nearly every part of the globe. It also contained the non-area-specific Institute of War and Peace Studies (now the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies), founded in 1951 by university president Dwight D. Eisenhower.[3] Originally housed in a row of brownstones, the School moved into its own 15-story building in 1971.

To meet a growing demand for public service professionals, the school added a second degree, the Master of Public Administration, in 1977. In 1981, the program was renamed the Graduate Program in Public Policy and Administration and the School renamed the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

In the early 1990s, SIPA began appointing its own faculty, supplementing the distinguished social and natural scientists and humanists with whom SIPA students studied around the University. Within 15 years, SIPA faculty were among the most prominent in their fields, including the one-time director of the U.S. census, a Nobel Laureate in Economics, a judge on the appellate body of the World Trade Organization, economic advisors in both the Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush administrations, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, and many distinguished research scholars.

SIPA has continued to evolve, adding programs that mirror a globalized world in which the boundaries between international and public affairs, like the boundaries between states, have grown less distinct. In 1992, with support from the World Bank, The Program in Economic Policy Management (PEPM) was established to provide mid-career finance professionals with the skills required for effective design and implementation of economic policy, emphasizing the problems of developing and transition economies. Students who complete PEPM’s requirements are awarded an MPA degree.

The International Fellows program has allowed Columbia's best graduate students in the various schools an immersion in international affairs in a one academic year program of seminars and networking events.[4]

To accommodate the needs of working professionals who could not pursue full-time study, SIPA established the Executive MPA program in 1999 as part of the Picker Center for Executive Education. In 2001 the School introduced an MPA in Environmental Science and Policy (ESP), which condenses the two years into twelve consecutive months, without a reduction in requirements, and provides core courses in management and policy analysis with a concentration in environmental science and earth systems. The ESP MPA program is offered in cooperation with The Earth Institute and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. In fall 2004 SIPA inaugurated its first doctoral program, the interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Sustainable Development, which combines elements of a traditional graduate education in social science, particularly economics, with a significant training in the natural sciences.

In addition, SIPA has established a Global Public Policy Network with the London School of Economics (LSE), the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris ("Sciences Po"), the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore, the Hertie School of Governance, the Graduate School of Public Policy of the University of Tokyo, and the Fundação Getúlio Vargas, as well as a variety of other collaborations with public policy programs at the Universidad Externado de Colombia in Bogotá, Colombia, Renmin University in Beijing, China, and other universities in Europe and Asia. SIPA also offers non-degree programs through the Picker Center for Executive Education. A 1954 history boasts that students came from six countries outside the United States and that graduates were working in 17 different countries. The class of 2005 came from over a hundred countries, and the School’s 18,000 alumni are working in 155 countries.



SIPA offers seven degree programs and dual-degree programs:

  • Master of International Affairs (MIA): The MIA program is structured around four complementary components—the core curriculum, policy concentration, specialized skills, and advanced knowledge. The MIA core curriculum focuses more on international issues than other SIPA programs. The MIA requires students to complete an internship and demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English. Many MIA students participate in workshop projects for outside clients.
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA): The MPA program is structured around the same four complementary components: core curriculum, policy concentration, specialized skills, and advanced knowledge. Students and faculty focus on local and national projects in a global context. All MPA students are required to complete an internship and a workshop project, working in teams for clients in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
  • Program in Economic Policy Management (PEPM): A 14-month program, emphasizing the problems of developing and transition economies. Students who complete PEPM program are awarded the degree of Master of Public Administration (MPA).
  • Executive Master of Public Policy and Administration (EMPA): Designed for professionals who wish to enroll in a graduate program, but are unable to pursue full-time study. Students can complete the program in either two or three years of study.
  • MPA in Environmental Science and Policy: Provides a management and policy analytic core and a natural and social science earth systems concentration. This accelerated 12-month program is jointly sponsored by SIPA and the Earth Institute.
  • MPA in Development Practice: A 22-month MPA degree intended to train students to understand and manage integrated approaches to development challenges. The program emphasizes the development of knowledge and skills of a professional in developing societies.
  • Ph.D. in Sustainable Development: The Ph.D. in Sustainable Development includes a set of core requirements in social and natural sciences, and offers students the opportunity to pursue in-depth research in critical policy areas, with an understanding of the natural processes that interact with social systems.

Columbia Dual Degree Programs[edit]

Drawing on the resources of Columbia University, SIPA offers a number of dual degree programs with other Columbia schools. Students in these programs gain knowledge, skills, and perspectives in fields other than International and Public Affairs. Each dual degree program leads to the award of two professional degrees in less time than if the two degrees were pursued separately.

The dual degree programs offered by SIPA and other Columbia schools are:[5]

  • MIA Dual Degrees:
    • MIA and Juris Doctor (JD)
    • MIA and Master of Business Administration (MBA)
    • MIA and Master of Public Health (MPH)
    • MIA and Master in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences (MA)
    • MIA and Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW)
    • MIA and Master of Science in Journalism (MS)
    • MIA and Master of Science in Urban Planning (MS)
  • MPA Dual Degrees:
    • MPA and Juris Doctor (JD)
    • MPA and Master of Public Health (MPH)
    • MPA and Master in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences (MA)
    • MPA and Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW
    • MPA and Jewish Theological Seminary Master of Arts (MA)
  • Five-Year Joint Degrees:
    • MIA and BA
    • MPA and BA

International Dual Degree Programs[edit]

SIPA also offers a number of dual-degree programs with the University of Tokyo, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.[2]

Concentrations and Specializations[edit]

In addition to fulfilling all core requirements, MIA and MPA students must also satisfy the requirements of both a policy concentration and a specialization. Students choose one of the following six concentrations: Economic and Political Development, Energy and Environment (includes tracks in energy and environment), International Finance and Economic Policy (includes tracks in finance and economic policy), Human Rights, International Security Policy, or Urban and Social Policy.

Students can choose a specialization in regional expertise (8 different regions/countries) or one of the following: Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis; Applied Science; International Media, Advocacy and Communications; International Organization; or Management. Regional specializations are offered in the following areas: Africa, East Asia, East Central Europe, Europe, Latin America, The Middle East, Russia, South Asia, and the United States.


SIPA is home to five centers:[6]

  • Center for Development Economics and Policy (CDEP): Supports microeconomic research to investigate the sources of poverty and to inform practical interventions to address them.
  • Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP): Provides independent, balanced, data-driven analysis to help policymakers navigate the complex world of energy.
  • Center on Global Economic Governance (CGEG): Produces policy-oriented research on global economic governance.
  • Center for International Conflict Resolution (CICR): Contributes to the resolution of international deadly conflict through research, education and practice.
  • Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies (SIWPS): Founded in 1951 under the sponsorship of Dwight D. Eisenhower, during his tenure as president of Columbia University, SIWPS was created to promote understanding of the "disastrous consequences of war upon man's spiritual, intellectual, and material progress". The institute has become one of the leading research centers on international relations in the United States.

International Affairs Building[edit]

International Affairs Building

The School of International and Public Affairs is located at 420 West 118th Street, just off of Amsterdam Avenue on Columbia University's Morningside Heights campus in Manhattan.

Rankings & Reputation[edit]

Foreign Policy ranked SIPA fifth in its 2015 ranking of "Top Master's Programs for Policy Career in International Relations".[7] In addition, SIPA is ranked fourth by U.S. News and World Report Best Graduates Schools 2014 world rankings for International Politics and third for Environmental Policy and Management.[8]

Student life[edit]

Most students are at SIPA for two years or less. Many activities are centered on interest-driven student groups, student government (School of International and Public Affairs Student Association, known as SIPASA), the student multimedia news publication The Morningside Post, the student-edited policy journal, the Journal of International Affairs and a number of ad hoc athletic groups and intramural athletic leagues.

The Student Association (SIPASA) is led by an Executive Board chaired by MPA and MIA Co-Presidents. The following positions comprise the rest of the Executive Board: Vice President of Communications, ESP-MPA President, PEPM-MPA President, Treasurer, EMPA Representative and University Senator. Each program, MPA/MIA/ESP-MPA/PEPM-MPA, has seven functional chairs serving student interests like career services, alumni affairs, student life, and academics.[9]


Journal of International Affairs was established in 1947 and is the oldest university-affiliated publication in the field of international relations; it is edited by SIPA students.

The Morningside Post is SIPA's student-founded, student-run multimedia news publication. Its content: student-written investigative news about SIPA and the SIPA community, plus world affairs analysis, opinion, and satire.

Conflict Resolution Journal is a dynamic and evolving web-based project founded by SIPA students

SIPA News is a biannual publication featuring articles by faculty, students, and alumni as well as news about the school

Notable alumni[edit]

Notable faculty[edit]

Noteworthy former faculty[edit]

Noteworthy former international fellows[edit]


External links[edit]